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ART206 Baroque

Review of Art History To Baroque

Art History reveals successes and failures of our ancestors.

Important Lessons From

Primitive Survival
150 – 20000 BC
Intelligent cooperation, control of fire, decoration of clothing, tools, origins of matriarchal concepts,
First images are of women

Primitive Identity
20- 2000 BC
Art and Myth suggests Pre History Transcendental concepts.
Cave Art = Bond with Nature
Neolithic = Bond with Cosmos
Egyptian = Immortality
Greek = Bond with Divine.

Civilized Survival - 5000 BC to present
Art and history supports dictates of church, state and power brokers.
Mesopotamia = State dictates
Roman = State dictates
Medieval = Church dictates
Baroque = Absolutism

Civilized Identity – 1500 AD to Present

Images provoked by Enlightenment
And Revolution reflecting the Humanist age
Renaissance = Enlightenment
Romanticism = Revolution
Modern Art
Post Modern, contemporary

Spring Term Outline

Baroque to Post Modern

  • Baroque to Rococo 1600-1750
  • Romantic Age 1750-1850
    • Neo Classical
    • Romantic
  • Realism / Impressionism 1850-1890
  • Post Impressionism 1890’s
    • France
    • Germany
  • Surrealism 1920 –1930’s
  • Modern Art – America 1945 – 1970
  • Post Modern – 1970 – 1990’s
The Baroque 1600-1750 AD - Contributions of the Renaissance

Enlightenment of Humanism

  1. People are born inherently good, deserving of a knowable universe. Equal share of knowledge and resources.
  2. Artist is as genius creator satisfying ones own destiny through "divine revelation", or metaphor of the heart.
  3. A challenge of authority based on enlightened ideas of Humanism or the necessary inflation of ego.

This study of being human will evolve through the Romantic and Modern age to become the Humanist ideal of "devotion to the welfare of people".

Art is the study of peoples evolving need and values. As we study the images of our ancestors we are better able to understand ourselves. Both the limitations, or "sins of our fathers" which have become the inherited belief systems that has led to more war and genocide. Or, humanist concepts of born good deserving fair and equal share.

Mostly, mainstream Baroque art reflect a lavish display of the privileged.

At best, Baroque artist who will continue to confirm, a new freedom of expression by challenging dogma of medieval religion and philosophy.

The Baroque and then the Romantic artist, will further the seed ideas of the Humanist Enlightenment, which sparks the Revolution.

Art of this term will offer a more unlimited and interesting potential of being human, than what we have seen in the last 2000 years.

Baroque Ideas: 1700’s- an age of Transition / Contradiction

John Locke writes An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, a Humanist Philosophy.

David Hume writes, Treaties of Human Nature.

Mary Astell writes, Some Reflections On Marriage. Moderation Truly Stated, A Fair Way with Dissenters and their Patrons, An Impartial Enquiry into the Causes of Rebellion and Civil War. Opposes class distinction.

Sophia writes Women Not Inferior to Man
Anonymous, Man superior to Woman, or, a Justification of Man’s Natural Right of Sovereign Authority over the Woman. A plain confrontation of the fallacious arguments of Sophia (published together with Sophia’s 1740 response in 1751).

Eliza Haywood publishes, The Distressed Orphan, The Merchant Lover.
Henry Fielding’s, Tom Thumb

Sir Richard Steele publishes, The Tatler, the first major British periodical, presenting news and literature as well as recipes for behavior for the ideal gentleman and gentlewoman.

Sir Isaac Newton, creates science of optics, gravity, and a mechanized galaxy.

Urban centers experiences population explosion because of better agriculture, but only one out of four children survive.

The Septennial Act leads to greater electoral corruption, state and church.

The Waltham Black Acts add 50 capital offenses to the penal code: people could be sentenced to death for theft and poaching. Were hung, beheaded publicly.

France is center of Political wealth and power. Rome is religious center. Religious wars between Catholics and Protestants.

Baroque Music

Baroque Period (ca.1600-1750)

Some of the greatest composers were employed as servants by wealthy monarchs as were many of the visual artists.

Sebastian Bach composed much of his music for the monarch’s court.

Creating a new style of music with emphases on sensual affect.

Opera was first created by George Handel, a German working in Italy. In the early part of the 1600’s.

The Baroque Art and Literary Age 1600- 1750

  • Complexity of styles and themes
  • Reflects an age in which the new Scientific Rationalism challenge the old symbolic world-views which had conditioned European thought and art since the Middle Ages.
  • Art and Literature is committed to the reality of the natural world, to the experiences of the senses, which are felt to be intrinsically the true sources of genuine knowledge.
  • To seek truth from the inner realms.
  • An emphasis on individual experience in local time

In a language that is dramatic and personal in imagery. All of Shakespeare’s plays were composed after the High Renaissance.

  • Baroque artists shared a conviction that ultimately truth is accessible to the human spirit (if at all) only in moments of passionate experience. A turn away from Renaissance reason.
  • The Baroque is preoccupied with the notion of world as theatre, and life as a play, if you could afford it.

The Baroque, 1600-1750 to Rococo

A period of change, transition to modern perspectives. A time of expectation.

A necessary break from medieval reliance on divine will, suspicion of nature, the body and concepts of higher authority.

The Baroque, "the irregular pearl", is a celebration of the physical and sensual in contrast to Renaissance rational intellectual perspective.

At best, humanistically it is an awakened trust of the senses in a tactical, dramatic aesthetic provoking more empathetic humanist horizontal access to traditional themes.

At worst is a last hurrah of dictators and power brokers in the sense of a lavish display of accumulated wealth and privilege.

The aesthetic is an appeal to the senses in a dramatic, theatrical expressive style, using traditional Christian, genre or pagan themes, but in contemporary settings. In natural light.

In France, and England, the church and state are dominant powers politically. Italy and Germany are feuding monarchies while some challenge of Absolutism seeking individual freedoms. in the Americas.

In Catholic countries France and Italy, art is dominated by the church thus religious Christian themes. The wealthy aristocrats favor both Pagan and Neo Platonist Philosophy.

In the north, the Protestant Dutch countries, and Germany, there is a growing middle class and less church influence which beings new patronage. Art finds outlets in open markets through art guilds and shops.

But mostly the art reflects a lavish display of wealth reflecting socially a disparity of privilege and class distinction based politically on
Absolutism and Machiavellian concepts of dominant / subservient and religiously medieval church concepts of Obedience and Inquisition.

At best, most meaningful, the Baroque art continues the Humanist challenge of dictates and higher authority. Reflecting the enlightenment and reformation begun in the Renaissance. Satisfying a horizontal access to art themes.

Acknowledging a sensual relationship to Nature rather than medieval " sins of flesh". Importantly, Pagan and Christian themes are expressed in more contemporary terms.

Baroque limitations are the opulent display of absolutism and traditional themes which become clichés, out of touch from a contemporary perspective.

Humanistically, the Baroque aesthetic does focus on real people in local settings, in natural rather than divine light. Bringing a more empathic, personal participation with the art.

It is an expressive style importantly reflecting a greater trust of senses and the body.

With the new patronage, there is a need for a new imagery, the "genre", which is the local, landscape still life, and portrait.

From the ideal of the Renaissance circle to the oval, which, like the solar system, suggests change, which is inherent in nature and revolution.

Baroque Art and Architecture
The style dominating the art and architecture of Europe, through out the 1600’s and in some places, until 1750. The late Baroque period is generally termed rococo and corresponds roughly with King Louis XV of France.

At first, critics regularly dismissed the Baroque as too bizarre or strange to merit serious study. Was seen as the decadent end of the Renaissance.

Baroque art encompasses vast regional distinctions, yet despite differences, they shared certain baroque elements, such as preoccupation with the dramatic potential of light.

The realization that the earth was not at the center of the universe coincided in art with the rise of pure landscape painting devoid of human figures.

The active trade and colonization policies of the Church and Nations provides the money for lavish, opulent art.

Italy – Caravaggio , Bernini
North Europe – Rembrandt, Rubens ,Vermeer
France – Poussin, La Tour, Chardin
Spain - Velazquez

Baroque Architecture
The Palace of Versailles (begun 1669), created for Louis XIV, the Sun King, by Louis Le Van, Andre Le Notre, and Charles Lebrun, is the single most important French baroque architectural monument. It is dedicated to the Sun King; its sumptuous interiors glorify the power of the monarchy.

The Paris Oprah House
Private city and country estates.

Last display of opulent wealth by the privileged.

The Cultural Scene

Social: growing class distinction, great wealth at top. Exploitation of worker by aristocracy, land displacement and crowded cities. With mercantilism to capitalism, a growing middle class, but unsanitary, no plumbing for most, social inequity, unjust civil standards. A large servant class, with agricultural pheasants. Education for the privileged.

Political: Machiavelli and nationalism. Workers and warriors expendable to the state. Corrupt absolutism by states and monarchy’s , but with some reformation. Political dissent by a few and intense wars for territories by new nation states. .


F. Bacon - challenges the subjective, with rational mind. "Not to imagine, but to discover what nature can be made to do". Presides over "witch trials".

Rene Descartes 1596-1650 proposes dualism of mind and nature, with mind as superior.

Philosophical influences that affect this time period. Scientific Rationalism; belief that human mind has capacity to establish truths about the nature of reality by reason alone independently of experience, senses only inform us of what is uncertain.

Descartes (1596-1650): shaped a belief system which will dominate Western philosophy for century’s to come. A rationalist, aimed at freeing explanations of world from confusion and unknowns from the senses. Questions perception, and emphasis on thought revealed in science. Reason without senses, will yield truth.

Spinoza (1632-1677): Critical of Bible. God is in all subject and substance of existence. Mind and body are two attributes of the same finite mode of infinite substance.

Newton (1642-1727) Scientists serves God through uncovering the divine order bestowed upon the universe by the Creator. Describes a mechanized universe that works like a giant clock. Which when the parts are understood, can be knowable and predictable.

Empiricism: supports ideas and concepts that all knowledge must be derived from our experience.

Imagination is bound by the limit of our experience. Truths can be known only through intellectual logical reasoning, all truths are contingent and not certain.

Religious: Reformation challenges resistance of corrupt Catholic Church. Yet there is colonization, Banking, Inquisitions, Burnings and Illegitimate babies.

Leibniz 1645-1716 says this world is the best of possibilities because God divined it, and each individual has own destiny encoded with in oneself, like a flower (teleology). Thus church is not necessary?

Bruno – martyred in prison; during the late Rena says divine will / intellect in all things, evil is born of illusion; ignorance is the failure of fallible man. Harmony in all things.

The Baroque’s accomplishment is that absolutist dogma is challenged by the arts and philosophy, and does become a triumph over limiting medieval beliefs.

And the Baroque artist, at best will continue to bring more horizontal access to important traditional themes.

Science: Struggle between and transition from medieval superstition and divine will to Cartesian scientific method. Cartesian scientific method describes reality in Newtonian, linear, rational terms. Which will compromise the subjective, magical or the spiritual realms beyond left-brain. Synchronicity, in modern terms.

The academy of sciences, with more freedom to debate. Significance microscope and telescope in a rapidly expanding awareness of the nature of things.

Scientific Rationalism will be seen as path to subdue nature. Based on ideas God created a rational universe, thus a system that can be understood with just a few predictable "basic laws". God mirrors himself in a closed system (like a machine, or clock) and allows nature to run on its own rather then medieval divine intervention and will.

This believe system justifies mans intervention upon nature. As a growing dominate ego will use this knowledge for his own benefit.

The paradox is, that now man is seen as a creator like god, but with or without a conscious?

Alienation between matter and spirit is done.

Why Baroque is Important

Growing support from non-traditional patronage. On the one hand, a time of profound scientific, political, religious and philosophical change. And on the other, Reflects time of tension and uncertainty and denial before revolution. Much different from the confident intellectualism of the Renaissance.

Baroque art meets limitations of Renaissance picture window view, that mind controls and organizes with linear perspective which separates subject and nature by placing traditional themes in contemporary terms.

Characterized by an expressive style, dramatic, theatrical action. Real local settings fused to traditional themes, Christian, Pagan and Greco Roman. Playing to the senses in Natural light.

Generally expressive, diagonal fast movement, contrast of light and dark. Play to senses, Celebrates the trust of sensual body, aliveness of nature, and change inherent in learning. Formal provides quietness, an imposition of order to contemplate themes of human importance.

Realism is fused with abstraction of traditional themes which will become clichés. Inner psychological presence and communication heightens empathetic participation with significant human issues, through natural rather than intellectual light. 

Abstraction –
Traditional themes in heightened drama provoking emotional response to significant universal themes, at an individual level.

Humanistically -
More horizontal access to archetypal themes.

Baroque Art in Italy, Italian Painting
The illusionist ceiling fresco was a particularly important medium for baroque painters. Who expressed the Baroque fascination with theatrical, dramatic visual statements for the wealthy.

Drawn to Rome Caravaggio, became the guiding spirit behind an entire school of "Baroque Naturalists". This aesthetic will spread throughout Italy in the first two decades of the 17th century. And become an important influence on the Romantics and Realists of the 18th century.

Italian Baroque Sculpture

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, dominates baroque sculpture in Rome. He was the favorite artist of the popes.

Church sculptures and public fountains were among the principal types of sculptural monuments, and those by Bernini are among the most outstanding. Fountain of 4 rivers.

Agony and Ecstasy of St. Theresa.

Baroque Art in Northern Europe

The Baroque spread rapidly to the countries of Northern Europe from Italy, where most of the major masters went to study the new style. Each country, however, developed distinctive versions of the baroque, depending on its conditions.

Flemish Baroque
The brilliance of Peter Paul Rubens. His exuberant painting style was formed from such diverse Italian sources as Caravaggio, Carracci, and Michelangelo. His major patrons were the royal courts of Europe.

Among Ruben’s pupils, his most worthy successor was Anthony van Dyck, whose specialty was elegant portraiture.

Dutch Baroque

At the turn of the 17th century, many Dutch artists were still working in the mannerist idiom.

Caravaggio’s influence is established in the Netherlands by Frans Hals who painted local portraits.

The greatest Dutch baroque master is Rembrandt who painted a wide variety of subjects in a truthful and empathetic rendering of his subjects.
With an Inner Psychological presence and masterly evocation of natural light.

Spanish Baroque Painting El Greco
El Greco is acknowledged as one of the great Spanish painters, whose early influence is Renaissance Mannerism. The appearance of a naturalistic baroque style was due to an influence from works by Caravaggio, which were seen in Seville in 1603.

The painter, Diego de Velazquez painted such earthy works as Old Woman Frying Eggs, 1618 in response. In 1623 he moved to Madrid to serve as portraitist to Philip IV.

English Baroque

Baroque paintings in England were dominated by the influence of Rubens.

French Baroque
Baroque naturalism is revealed in the Le Nain brothers.
French baroque paintings is noted by the classicism of Nicolas Poussin. Although he lived for most of his creative life in Rome, Poussin’s impact and that his fellow expatriate Claude Lorrain will take classicism into the Romantic.